Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The film music of 2017.

The importance of Spotify to the crusade of whittling down 160+ scores to 25(ish) cannot, in any way, be overstated. Now...

My favorite scores of 2017:

(Nicholas Britell - Sony Classical)
Favorite tracks: "Manhattan Sunset", "Bobby vs. Margaret", "Prelude to the Battle of the Sexes"

(Theodore Shapiro - Back Lot)
Favorite tracks: "Comic Book Opening", "Saving the Day", "The Prank for Good"

(Benjamin Wallfisch - Milan)
Favorite tracks: "Hannah and Volmer", "Magnificent, Isn't It?", "Volmer's Lab"

(Rolfe Kent - WaterTower)
Favorite tracks: "The World is Amazed - Main Title Theme", "Inching Toward the Downsizing Procedure", "Exodus, Farewells, Lost Luggage and Reunions"

(Michael Abels - Back Lot)
Favorite tracks: "Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga (Main Title)", "Rod's Bing Search", "Situation Handled"

(Philip Glass - Sony Classical)
Favorite tracks: "Time of Discovery", "Hugo Arrives", "Parent and Child"

(Danny Elfman - WaterTower)
Favorite tracks: "Wonder Woman Rescue", "Spark of the Flash", "The Final Battle"

(Mandy Hoffman - Milan)
Favorite tracks: "Intro and Title", "I'm Sorry", "Something Weird Happened/Mary Cries"

(Brian Tyler - Back Lot)
Favorite tracks: "The Mummy", "Concourse of the Undead", "Sanction of the Gods"

(Patrick Doyle - Sony Classical)
Favorite tracks: "The Orient Express", "Twelve Stab Wounds", "Justice"

(John Williams - Sony Classical)
Favorite tracks: "The Presses Roll", "Setting the Type", "The Court's Decision and End Credits"

(Alexandre Desplat - Decca)
Favorite tracks: "The Shape of Water", "Five Stars General", "The Escape"

(Alexandre Desplat - ABKCO)
Favorite tracks: "Welcome to Suburbicon", "A Sweet Aroma", "Basement Games"

(Thomas Newman - Back Lot)
Favorite tracks: "Civilization!", "Certified Insane", "The Empress of India"

(Michael Giacchino - Sony Classical)
Favorite tracks: "Exodus Wounds", "The Ecstasy of the Bold", "Paradise Found"

[Mental note, in two parts: a) When creating this list in the future, think of a summary for the scores ahead of time and b) Make sure that you're not working on two Letterboxd Scavenger Hunts at the same time as tallying the favorite scores of the year.]

Some other really good scores:

All I See is You (Marc Streitenfeld), All the Money in the World (Daniel Pemberton), Bitter Harvest (Benjamin Wallfisch), Born in China (Barnaby Taylor), Coco (Michael Giacchino), Colossal (Bear McCreary), The Exception (Ilan Eshkeri), The Man Who Invented Christmas (Mychael Danna), Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood), que baje dios y lo vea (Fernando Velazquez), The Snowman (Marco Beltrami), Star Wars: the Last Jedi (John Williams), Thor: Ragnarok (Mark Mothersbaugh), Tulip Fever (Danny Elfman) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Alexandre Desplat)

No listing of unreleased scores, either. Again, Spotify.

My favorite releases of 2017:

Almost an Angel (Maurice Jarre - Varese Club) - The spiritual comedy may have faded from memory, but Jarre's score is an utter delight; uplifting, multifaceted and joyous.

Baby's Day Out (Bruce Broughton - Intrada) - Broughton's score for the underrated comedy is entertaining and rich with thematic wonder.

Damnation Alley (Jerry Goldsmith - Intrada) - Goldsmith's driving, exciting score for this question mark of a post-apocalyptic thriller is further proof of his talents.

DuckTales: the Movie - Treasure of the Lost Lamp (David Newman - Intrada) - Newman provided an appropriately bouncy effort for the feature spin-off.

From Beyond (Richard Band - Intrada) - The immediate reunion of the Re-Animator team encouraged a beautifully eerie score from Band.

The Haunting (Jerry Goldsmith - Varese Club) - The penultimate horror movie of the composer's career wasn't exactly Poltergeist - hell, it wasn't even The Final Conflict - but Goldsmith's music was as elegantly spooky as ever.

Robot Jox (Frederic Talgorn - Intrada) - Talgorn wrote his first score (and one of his finest) for this odd, Empire-produced giant robot slapfight.

Thriller (Jerry Goldsmith - Tadlow) - A strong re-recording of Goldsmith's engagingly eclectic music for the nearly forgotten anthology series.

Thunder Road (Jack Marshall - La La Land) - A fascinating collection of scores that show off impressive range for the "Munsters" composer.

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (Basil Poledouris - Varese Club) - The world may not have wanted the further adventures of Casey Ryback, but Poledouris's score was a fitfully exciting accompaniment.

The White Buffalo (John Barry/David Shire - Quartet) - Two very different approaches to the atypical Charles Bronson vehicle: Barry's moody replacement and Shire's more traditional (and unused) Western score.

Wonder Woman (various - La La Land) - Several terrific composers provided lively music (and a memorable theme song) for the Amazon's escapades.

And maybe I'll be seeing these sometime...

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Vols. 1, 2 & 3 (Alan Silvestri - Intrada)
Die Another Day (David Arnold - La La Land)
Final Judgment/The Terror Within II (Terry Plumeri - Howlin' Wolf)
A Fish Called Wanda (John DuPrez - Music Box)
Good Morning, Vietnam/Operation Dumbo Drop (Alex North/David Newman - Intrada)
Hyperspace (Don Davis - Dragon's Domain)
The Italian Key (Tuomas Kantelinen - Caldera)
Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon (John Scott - Kritzerland)
Nikola Tesla (Alfi Kabiljo - Kronos)
Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre (Chuck Cirino - Kritzerland)
Shogun (Maurice Jarre - Intrada)
Stargate: SG-1 (Richard Band - Intrada)
State of Grace (Ennio Morricone - Quartet)
Time Walker (Richard Band - Dragon's Domain)
Wonders of Aladdin (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Alhambra)

Here's where I'd post random thoughts about the year in film music, if I had any. Still, the specialty release business is as strong as ever. (A 3-CD Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Game on.)


Monday, January 29, 2018

The movies of 2017.

Just so it's on the record...

10. The Shape of Water - Guillermo Del Toro's re-write of Creature from the Black Lagoon is an oddly enchanting fairy tale.

9. Murder on the Orient Express - An incredibly stylish adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, with a terrific cast and effective moments of suspense.

8. The Disaster Artist - The behind-the-scenes look at The Room is uproarious, but kept grounded by the friendship between two misfits seeking success.

7. It - A much better coming-of-age movie than a horror movie, but both parts nicely complement each other.

6. Logan - A fascinating (if dark) valedictory to the X-Men series, anchored by series-best turns from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

5. The LEGO Batman Movie - One of the more entertainingly ridiculous animated movies of recent memory; loaded with gags and clever Easter eggs.

4. War for the Planet of the Apes - More a meditation on the horror of war than one would expect from a major studio movie and impressively rendered.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy - Vol. 2 - Follow-up manages even to outshine a damn-good original; just as funny and surprisingly emotional.

2. Coco - Colorful and delightful animated feature, with a tuneful soundtrack and a thematically rich narrative.

1. Your Name. - What could've been an ordinary story of body switching ended up as, perhaps, the most original and heartbreaking movie of the year.

And then there's...

Baby Driver - Snappy mixture of action and comedy from Edgar Wright, with a command of music as strong as the filmmaking.
Colossal - Peculiar genre mashup is far more substantive than a traditional monster movie and a fascinating metaphor for addiction.
Get Out - Unnerving, entertaining crosshatch between Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives.
I, Tonya - The constant shifting of tone aside, this is a terrific look at an odd chapter in sports history, well-acted and very eye-opening.
Kedi - Cats running rampant around Istanbul. Sometimes, you don't need more substance than that. Endearing and profound.
Molly's Game - Aaron Sorkin's directing debut is an exceptional return to Social Network territory, fueled by a marvelous Jessica Chastain performance.
Spider-Man: Homecoming - Filtering the web-crawler's adventures through a high school comedy makes for a surprisingly enjoyable feature.
Thor: Ragnarok - Though perhaps a little too jokey, this is still a rollicking installment in the Marvel series.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Corrosive (literally and figuratively) comedy-drama, rich with strong performances and social outrage.
Wonder Woman - Perhaps the finest effort to come from the DCEU, with exciting action scenes and strong period flavor.

Underrated: Brad's Status, Justice League and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Guilty pleasures: The Hitman's Bodyguard and xXx: the Return of Xander Cage

My favorite things in movies - 2017:

the apartment fight in Atomic Blonde

Deckard Shaw's babysitting service in The Fate of the Furious

Ezra Miller in Justice League

Harry regains his memory in Kingsman: the Golden Circle

Jake reminisces about his childhood fishing in Geostorm

Jeff gets the last word in I, Tonya

John C. Reilly in Kong: Skull Island, especially his last moments

Laurence Fishburne in John Wick: Chapter 2 and Last Flag Flying

Mildred sees the deer in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

the Nancy Drew montage in Happy Death Day

the No Man's Land sequence in Wonder Woman

the opening getaway in Baby Driver

Paul McCartney in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Peter's vlog in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Roman takes a trip to the beach in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

the speed therapy session in Molly's Game

Stephen Merchant in Logan

the tasting in John Wick: Chapter 2

the thermostat commiseration in Daddy's Home 2

the trip through the tunnel in Thor: Ragnarok

Zazie Beetz in Geostorm; a far more enjoyable Snark Knight than the one from Spider-Man: Homecoming (more on this later) and one of the best things about this dumb but fairly entertaining actioner. Based on her work here, I can't wait to see her go toe-to-toe with Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2.

Holy crap, was that...?

Olek Krupa in The Fate of the Furious
Tony Plana in Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Paul Williams in Baby Driver

What a tragic waste...

Jon Bernthal in Baby Driver (seriously, he was barely in the movie long enough to rub his head)
Judy Greer in War for the Planet of the Apes (didn't we fucking go over this two years ago?!)
Christopher Lloyd in Going in Style
Helen Mirren in The Fate of the Furious (we are not amused)
Courtney B. Vance in The Mummy

Random thoughts:

- Did I hallucinate that? Was Beauty and the Beast really gonna have a scene at the end of a servant that was changed into a chamberpot? Two ways I can react to this: a) "Robot Chicken's" influence is far-reaching or b) Huh. I guess executive meddling can be used for good, after all.

- Some people, before and after the film's release, were upset that MJ (or is that Michelle?) in Spider-Man: Homecoming was Black. I didn't much care for the character myself and let me say that if her obnoxiously snarky, 'screw the world' attitude and half-hearted wisecracks had anything to do with her being Black, well then, nail on the head.

- I was underwhelmed by The Fate of the Furious. It was watchable and intermittently interesting, but after all I'd heard about it and the movie series, all I could do was go, '...that's it?' This disappointment spread to Charlize Theron's uber-hacker villainess. (mild 17 year old spoiler warning) I thought she was a more compelling adversary in the last 10 minutes of Reindeer Games.

- Speaking of White girls, I saw Get Out. I enjoyed it greatly...and I still want a White girlfriend. What? You're gonna tell me that nobody ever swam in the ocean again after Jaws? Give me a break.

- You can count the number of truly impressive animated movies released by major studios this past year on one hand and still have enough digits left over for a Dane Cook superfinger (ask your older siblings). Having sat through Batman and Harley Quinn and the previews for The LEGO Ninjago Movie, it really seemed like the writers of both movies decided to go with the first draft of every joke they came up with, figuring they were 'good enough'. Didn't those crews believe in punch-up? You cannot 'good enough' the scripts to animated movies! (Then again, major studios, superfinger, so what can you do?)

- A long time ago, when I reviewed Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, I wondered what happened to that film's lead actress, Wendy Lyon. Checking the credits of The Shape of Water, I got my answer: she played Strickland's secretary. Well, I got part of an answer; what has she been doing the last 30 years?

- I didn't like The Mummy. I didn't hate it, either. I nothing that movie, but there were actually critics (respected ones, at that) who preferred it to the Brendan Fraser movies. Fucking seriously? I concede that it may - may - be on the level of the over-stuffed sequels, but better than the 1999 movie? You are high on crack cocaine.

- As a matter of fact, 'Amanda Johnson' at Pajiba (cf. 'What Was the Stupidest Thing in a Movie in 2017?') posited a much better reboot of The Mummy that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the 1999 version and the 1932 original while satisfying Universal's 'Dark Universe' boner:
The other dumbass thing was the entire plot. Scrap Cruise entirely and make Sofia Boutella the main character and an Egyptian archaeologist directly descended from Ardeth Bey (a great granddaughter) from the previous movies. Except, she doesn't believe in the supernatural and the old stories of her family fighting the Mummy. So she unwittingly unleashes a new mummy.

Meanwhile, a direct descendant of Rick and Evie is secretly on the dig/part of the archaeological team. Except, now the O'Connell line absolutely believes in the supernatural. Once the mummy is released, he reveals himself. Action-adventure and horror hijinks ensue. Including fun, non-misogynistic romantic tension between the Egyptian archaeologist and the O'Connell descendant. Also, throw in a couple flashbacks started Ardeth and the O'Connells to tie it to the earlier movies.
Oh and the Medjai are part of an international organization of monster hunters all over the world, similar to SHIELD in the MCU. Which his how you establish a Universal Monster Universe. Because each movie is linked together by the Medjai investigations of the monsters. Including a Frankenstein movie set in the era Mary Shelly actually wrote it. That way, you don't have to tie up actors for multiple movies and are allowed to set movies in different historical eras and using different genres. Hell, an after-credits scene should have been the only hint the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is around.
But hey, what do I know?

- The kid in Wonder looked strange, but let's be honest: between his mom's mouth and his dad's nose, things could've been so much worse.

- In a year of 'you gotta be fucking kidding me' endings (Life, mother!, The Wall), I would never have guessed that The Trip to Spain would be among them. Seriously, if you didn't want to do a fourth movie, all you had to do was say so.

- Okay, there were a lot of time-loop movies this past year. It almost makes one wish for a cinematic universe where Sam (from Before I Fall), Tree (Happy Death Day) and whatever Marlon Wayans's character from Naked was called are gathered together by Phil Connors to use time-loops to save the world or something. This was dashed off, but more thought was likely put into this than into the Dark Universe.

- So...The Last Jedi. People don't seem to agree with Rian Johnson's creative decisions on that movie. (I didn't see it, not out of fear of the toxic reactions to it, but out of pure apathy: despite going to see The Force Awakens, I've never been much into Star Wars.) Kinda makes my whining about the second half of Looper seem pretty small, if more reasonably expressed; I hated the turn the film took, but I doubt I'd threaten the director over social media.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

12 inches of Oscar.


- Three out of nine nominees that I saw in the last year: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water and...

- Get Out was nominated for Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. Not bad for a "MAD TV" veteran.

- The Boss Baby and Ferdinand were nominated for Best Animated Feature, but not only was one of the best animated features (The LEGO Batman Movie) shut out, but so, too, was - easily - the best animated feature of the year (Your Name.). It was eligible for 2016, but only made its way into theaters this past April and it wasn't even submitted for Oscar consideration. What fucking planet am I even living on? It's all moot, anyway: Coco is gonna take it all.

- Logan nominated for Adapted Screenplay. I'll be goddamned.

- Amazingly, despite deafening buzz, that's the only category where The Disaster Artist and Molly's Game were honored. I liked James Franco in the former, but this is the season for accusations and, to quote Clive Owen in Inside Man, "The further you try to run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they finally catch up to you. And they will." I'd have bet money on Jessica Chastain getting nominated for the latter. Still, with her talent and choice of projects, she'll probably have as many nominations and wins as Meryl Streep by the time she reaches Streep's current age.

- Only one nomination for The Big Sick - Original Screenplay - but it's still a deserving one.

- First-time nominations for Mary J. Blige, Timothee Chalamet, Allison Janney, Daniel Kaluuya, Lesley Manville, Laurie Metcalf, Margot Robbie and Sam Rockwell.

- I will concede that I haven't seen Get Out since last year, but while I'm happy he was nominated and wish him well, I wouldn't have thought that Kaluuya's work was 'Best Actor nominee' good. I'll have to watch it again.

- And just to address the 800-lb pile of elephant shit in the room, yes, Dunkirk (despite the wealth of good scores available to Academy voters) landed in the Best Original Score category. There is still a chance that it could lose the award, thus sparing us from more movies sounding just like it (post about that to come), but for now, I'll just be listening to Pacific Heights and remembering the days when Hans Zimmer was called upon to write music and not noise.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Note to self: someday create a smoothie or a float or something combining Tropicana Probiotics - Strawberry Banana and Mountain Dew.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Best of Times (Arthur B. Rubinstein)

A blown final play of a high school football game still haunts Jack (Robin Williams) years after the fact, so he arranges a rematch. All he needs to do is convince quarterback Reno (Kurt Russell) to get back into the game. Likable comedy never quite reaches greatness, but it's still entertaining, with Williams and Russell making a good team.

Arthur B. Rubinstein's score is quite engaging, utilizing Sousa marches for the big game scenes, Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" (the base for the school's fight song, and given a neat rendition in "Make-up Sex"), some tritone material reminiscent of WarGames ("Rainfall"), as well as a pair of themes: a determined motif for Jack and a wistful one for Reno. A long ago Rubinstein compilation promo featured some cues that seemed to be dialed out of the film, so all the more reason for a release.

The Best of Times
composed & conducted
Arthur B. Rubinstein

1. Pomp and Circumstance (Main Titles) 3.31
2. "What's the problem?" 0.38
3. Reno's Office (source) 1.24
4. Jack Takes Off in Le Pile 0.35
5. One Good Reason... 0.08
6. Junk in the Yard 1.36
7. Jack's Idea 0.36
8. Taft High Doorbell 0.09
9. Make-up Sex/New Digs 4.03
10. Reno's Lament 0.50
11. Extortion/Loyal Order of Caribou (source) 3:05
12. The Colonel Lays Down the Rules 0.39
13. The Safari Room (source)/Paint Job 2.10
14. Phony the Tiger 0.13
15. Team Run/The Offensive Line Returns (source) 2.27
16. Plays in the Dirt/Cleaning Up Taft 2.26
17. The Parade (source) 0.45
18. At the Bar #1 (source) 1.28
19. At the Bar #2 (source) 0.27
20. Losing Confidence/Bakersfield Trains 1.21
21. Arrival in Taft 0.51
22. Liberty Bell March (First Half Blues) 1.44
23. Rainfall 0.36
24. Jack Gets Benched/Reno's White Shoes 1.31
25. Washington Post March (The Comeback) 2.04
26. Touchdown! 1.46
27. Reconciliations 1.47
28. End Titles 0.55

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

For 20 years, I'd only been vaguely aware of the 1995 remake of Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford (in the Humphrey Bogart role), Julia Ormond (taking over the title role from Audrey Hepburn) and Greg Kinnear (making his film debut in the William Holden role), and to this day, I've not seen it.

In perusing film music sites, I knew that John Williams scored it and even earned an Oscar nomination for it (in the Best Musical or Comedy Score category - ah, good times). Much like the film, I hadn't heard any of the music.

That is until I was called upon to review the compilation "Lights, Camera...Music! - Six Decades of John Williams". The feather-light piano theme may not be seen as one of the composer's best or most substantive, but it is undeniably lovely. Like Williams's best themes, it stays with you long after the film has faded from memory. If you haven't heard it (or heard it in a while), I implore you to seek it out.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

"Now that's comedy!"

Not long before Christmas, Scriptshadow reviewed a script called "Valedictorian", about an over-achieving student who would stop at nothing to attain the titular accolade. Haven't read it, but it sounds like something for people who thought that Election and Heathers were too cuddly. 

Carson singled out one of his favorite scenes in the script:

One of my favorite sequences is him trying to score a perfect score on an oral Spanish test. Larry is terrible at Spanish. Luckily for him, the real Spanish teacher is sick this week so a substitute is in. And the substitute is blind. So Larry comes up a plan to recruit a Mexican student who can’t speak a lick of English, and tell him to go into the class and pretend he’s him, Larry, before taking the test. However, before he goes, Larry fears that the student speaks Spanish a little too well. So he sits him down and attempts to teach him how to speak Spanish more like an American, erasing the heavy accent and the rolling R’s. It’s a funny scene and a great representation of the humor in the script.

Now, as I probably mentioned before, when it comes to plotholes and big twists, nine times out of ten, I'm a little slow on the uptake...but then comes that magic number ten (I'm still pretty proud of myself for figuring out the twist early on in Shutter Island). Here was my defense against that scene:

Larry sucks at Spanish, but a substitute is in for that day...and he's blind.

Does no one else's movie logic spidey-senses tingle at that? And that's not even getting into the coincidence factor.

Edit: And what's more, are all the other kids in this Spanish class blind, too? It's been mentioned that Larry is a douche with a capital bag, so who's to say that one of his (non-blind, might I add?) classmates wouldn't narc him out a) for some kind of revenge (cf. the janitor in Election) or b) just because "Hey, you're not Larry!"?
A few people agreed with me (quite a few upvotes), but one person responded with the following: "Short answer: it's a comedy." Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "You know, it's a good thing that you're just auditing this website and are not someone who's trying to be a better screenwriter or get something produced, because otherwise, a response like that comes off as really fucking stupid." Seriously, it's the kind of thing that's allowing improv to choke the genre to death. 'Oh, there doesn't need to be any plot logic or character consistency, because it's just a comedy.' And a hearty 'fuck you!' to anyone who sincerely believes that. If you throw this stuff out because you don't think you need it for comedies, you are dead in the water.

On that note, boy was I disappointed with The Wrong Guy, and I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool "Kids in the Hall" fan. 'Underrated comedy', my ass. Greedy is an underrated comedy. This was a piece of my heart dying.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

So far, the year's been going pretty damn well. I've written four pages of a new script (part of one of my resolutions to write every day and it's gonna stick!) and seen three movies as part of two different scavenger hunts at Letterboxd.

All I really need now is a better paying job that doesn't require me to get up at three-fucking-thirty in the morning and I'm on easy street.

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